How to Buy Beef

Grilled Tri-Tip, right off the barbeque! Seasoned with a dry rub of kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, dried chipotle, cumin, garlic powder and onion powder. An easy and economical cut of beef!

Can you believe Memorial Day weekend came that fast? It doesn’t seem like we can be that far through the month of May, let alone 2015, but here we are! It probably doesn’t come as much surprise that Memorial Day kicked off the summer grilling season. I just love the thought of burgers and steaks flying off backyard grills all across America. But something I don’t love is the fact that a lot of people forgo grilling because they feel intimidated when buying beef. I completely understand that feeling, because even as a beef producer, I’ve been there. But, let me be the first to tell you, anyone can learn more about how to buy beef.

The town closest to where we live is lucky enough to have two of the best locally-owned grocery stores—and when it comes to meat, there’s no one I trust more than our hometown butchers. Last week I sat down with meat cutter/grocery store owner, Brock Lenz, and asked him to give his insight on all things buying beef. Here’s what he had to say:

If you’re planning on buying a steak, the first thing to do is pick out the cut you want. Muscles that don’t get used by the animal make the best steaks. Those include your Tenderloin, T-Bone, Ribeye, and New York steaks—to name a few. Any muscles that the animal uses to move, (known as motor muscles), are going to be your tougher cuts. However, there are a lot of delicious cuts hidden within those motor muscles, such as the Flat Iron, that are just as good as those that come from the top and back of the animal.

This print from Chasing Delicious is one of my absolute favorites! If I had enough room, I’d love to have one hanging in my kitchen! -Jessie

This print from Chasing Delicious is one of my absolute favorites! If I had enough room, I’d love to have one hanging in my kitchen! -Jessie

Once you’ve decided on a cut, the next thing to look for is what’s called “marbling.” Marbling refers to the white flecks of fat that is found inside a cut of red meat. The more marbling a cut has, the more flavor it’ll have and the more tender it’ll be.


A lot of people think that a steak has to be expensive to be good. You can’t really go wrong with cuts like the tenderloin, ribeye, etc., which tend to be higher priced; however, there are many other cuts that provide a great eating experience. And they are more economical. When it comes to value, I think Sirloin is your best bet. A Top Sirloin or the Sirloin Tip steak are middle of the road cuts when it comes to price, and the taste is hard to beat. (Note: Even though both cuts have sirloin in the name, they are different. Check out top sirloin vs. sirloin tip to get more info on how to prepare each.)

In my opinion, one of the most versatile cuts is the Tri-Tip. It’s great for grilling and can be used for groups, big and small. It can be tricky to cut if you’ve never done it before, but that shouldn’t keep you from putting one on the grill. Idaho ranchers work hard every day to produce beef that provides a consistent, tender and high-quality eating experience every time!

buying beef

buying beef

I love all the selections at my hometown grocery store. A great resource when buying beef is the butcher behind the meat counter.

The worst mistake you can make with beef is overcooking it. Beef can be consumed at a lower internal temperature (145 degrees) than any other animal protein. And keep in mind that your steaks will continue to cook internally for up to ½ hour after they’re taken off the grill (when resting), so don’t cook them until they’re crisp; otherwise you’ll be losing a lot of taste.

Many thanks to Brock for all his tips on how to buy beef!

The Idaho Cattlewomen hope you have lots of beef on your barbeque this summer. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section if you want to know about buying or cooking beef. We are happy to answer!

~ Jessie

Categories: Beef, Idaho Cattlewomen, Recipes